Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Historic Aircraft Restoration Project/Hangar B Ranger Tour Paddle (Floyd Bennett Field)

We've been making an effort at the Sebago Canoe Club to add more trips suitable for anyone here as the summer is winding down. Last Spring, we lost our wonderful commodore emeritus and sea kayak chair Tony Pignatello to cancer, and we're feeling his absence deeply at the club - he was such an amazingly warm and welcoming person and he did so much to make sure that new members felt like they'd found the place they'd been looking for all along. He was a great trip leader and always watched out for the less experienced paddlers, he had this beautifully calm style of keeping his groups in good order and making sure everybody was doing OK, being very clear about where our next break would be and then making sure everybody got a chance to rest when we got there. One common mistake in trip leading is to hold the front of the group until the folks at the back catch up, and then start paddling again when they do, when it's the poor folks at the back who might really want to have a break for a minute - Tony never did that to people, you knew everything was going to be OK when you were on one of his trips, and you also knew that there was a good chance that you would all end up drinking some of his box wine and talking story afterwards (the post I linked his name to was just classic Tony, just how things were when he was there). He was a marvelous leader and we miss him very much.

Without him serving as a one-man welcoming committee for the club (well, not really one-man, his lovely wife Fran was part of the team, she's also an amazing person), the rest of us are trying to step up a little more to make sure that our newer and/or less experienced members are made welcome, and I was delighted to come up with an offering last weekend that was interesting and unusual while also being doable for just about anyone. The paddle was a short one, just about three miles each way, mostly along the shoreline, and the destination was Hangar B at neighboring Floyd Bennett Field, part of the National Park Service's Gateway Recreation Area.

I'd actually been plotting this trip for a long time. Hangar B houses a great program called the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (H.A.R.P.), a dedicated group of volunteers who restore and maintain old planes and helicopters and also build full-sized models (non-flying) for the collection. I found out about it when I went out paddling back in 2008 with a few friends from Sebago; I can't remember who had the idea to stop at Hangar B but my jaw dropped when we walked in there. I'd been back a couple of times and I'd long had it in mind that it would be really neat to see if I could line up a tour of the place and the planes by someone knowledgeable.

That idea got put on the back burner for a while when the hangar had to be closed for a while for roof repairs, but when I heard they'd re-opened, I started thinking about it again. The head ranger at Floyd Bennett Field is a paddler himself, he's a really good guy and a good friend of Sebago's; earlier this summer I fortuitously ran into him out on the water and ran this idea past him. Well, it turns out that there didn't need to be any "lining up" done for a tour - there's a guided ranger tour every Sunday during the summer. Starts at 2, lasts about 2 hours; currents last Sunday were perfect, so I figured out the schedule and announced it on the Google group and ended up with a group of 17 up for it!

It ended up being a really good tour; our tour guide, Ranger Lincoln, was incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about sharing what he knew about the aircraft and the facility. He took us around the various aircraft in chronological order, telling about each aircraft and then tying it in with what would have been going on at Floyd Bennett Field at that time. I'd thoroughly enjoyed just walking around and seeing the planes and reading the information provided on my earlier visits, but the ranger's approach gave so much more depth and historical perspective. As a special bonus, on the ranger tour, you get to board the Coast Guard rescue helicopter they have in the collection, you learn some interesting stuff about the development of the helicopter as a rescue craft, and the ranger demonstrates how the winch operator actually runs the show during the lowering and lifting phase of a rescue. As I said to my friends, I sincerely hope that's the closest view any of us ever get of how a Coast Guard rescue works (and I got some "Amen to that" responses). Really interesting to see, though!

I enjoyed the visit very much, and it seemed others did too. It's a really good introduction to one aspect of the area's history, and I think I'm going to make this a regular thing, once a summer at least.

Sound interesting? You don't need a boat to get there, here's the information on the NPS website.

And here are some pictures, of course. Fun place for picture taking. As usual, click on any picture for a slideshow view. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse Nerd

Late night at work tonight, not likely to get to my Hangar B trip report tonight. In lieu of that, here is a picture a co-worker took of me using my handy-dandy mailing-label-and-sketchbook pinhole projector to view the eclipse.

The glasses are definitely better. 

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(kayak smiley, patent pending)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipsin' NYC!

Goofy eclipse selfie after a co-worker loaned me her Warby Parker freebie glasses when she went back to her desk. 

Today's planned trip report for the Floyd Bennett Field Hangar B Ranger Tour paddle I led on Sunday is being postponed in favor of jumping in on today's US eclipse fever. I couldn't make it to anywhere with totality, or even to one of the official viewing events that were going on here and there in the city, but I did make sure I went downstairs to see it.

I first saw it through handy-dandy pinhole projector made from a large mailing label projecting on a sketchbook (kindly demonstrated for the photos by a gentleman who saw me trying to balance the sketchbook on a ledge at the right angle so to free up one hand to take the picture), then through a pair of the Warby Parker freebie eclipse glasses that a co-worker loaned me when she went back in to work. The glasses are actually really cool, I will get my own pair before 2024.

It was quite the event at Scholastic, Mrs. Frizzle would've been proud of us as the entire office emptied out onto Broadway starting around 2:30 to view the maximum coverage at 2:44, using every variety of viewer out there - we had the glasses, the box viewers, and the simple two sheets of paper. No colanders, but pretty much everything else. I got some fun pictures of folks using their various devices, and then, in an unexpected bonus, the cloud cover was JUST thick enough at certain points to act as a filter allowing photos to be taken actually the moon covering 72% of the sun. VERY neat! I'd thrown my camera in my bag as sort of an afterthought this morning but hadn't made any provisions for actual solar photos, thinking more that eclipse-watchers in the streets of NYC might offer some interesting pictures. You can see how that worked out below - as usual, click on any picture for a slideshow view.

Interesting thing was that it was noticeably gloomy, but not as dark as I thought 72% coverage would have made it. I'm glad I was able to get out there for this event. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Perfect Day at Coney Island - Yoga, A Swim, and a Sand Castle Contest

Swimming selfie with parachute jump

And what a perfect summer day I had at Coney Island today. Started with yoga on the beach led by one of the CIBBOWS members, followed that with a swim that was just a hair short of a mile (unfortunately had some foot cramp problems but was able to work through them), then enjoyed a little time hanging out by Grimaldo's Chair (Click here to read a very good article about the lifeguard after whom the chair is named - sad story but there's a lot of love there) catching up with some of my swimmer friends.

After that I headed down the beach to check out the sandcastle contest; that ran from 12 to 4 and a lot of the builders were just getting started, but there was some neat stuff going on already.

Pictures below - starts with yoga, then a few photos of the clinics that CIBBOWS was running today, then a mysterious bunch of bananas that was floating around (actually there was a whole fruit salad out there, bananas, a pear, a strawberry, some sugar cane) - maybe if I'd eaten one my foot cramps would've been better. Should've drunk more water before I started, too.

Finishes with my walk down the beach and some of the sandcastles and other sand sculptures that were being created. Pretty cool stuff, next year I'll know to go later when people are closer to done, I'd had enough sun by this point and was ready to head home, but what was there so far was pretty neat.

Finished my Coney Island day with a couple of corndogs - one of my biggest junk food weaknesses! - and a small lemonade at Nathan's. I'm only a little bit sunburned, I think I'll sleep well and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's fun!

As usual, click on any photo for a slideshow view. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Few More Road Trip Pix

1. Obligatory start-of-the-road-trip shot in the loading area at Sebago. Yay! As usual, click on any photo for a larger view.

2. I've taken to reserving an "Intermediate" when I'm planning on cartopping my boat, as the roofs on the smaller ones are a little on the flimsy side. There was one trip where there was an indentation left after I took my boat off the roof at the end of the trip - I was able to pop it out by getting in the back seat and pushing up on the roof with my feet, but after that trip I decided that the few extra bucks for a sturdier car would be money well spent. I was a bit horrified this time when the agent walked me out to the parking lot, pointed to the Kia Soul, and said "That's yours", I'd actually been looking at in on the way in and thinking "If that's mine I don't know how I'm gonna get my boat on top of it". I can generally wrestle my heavy kayak up onto the roof of a normal car but this one was tall enough that I wasn't seeing how I was going to make it happen on my own. You can't really tell the agent that you want a shorter car because you need to stick a kayak on the roof. I don't think they want to know about that. Thanks to Derek O for taking this photo so you can see how tall the car is!

Fortunately there was a clubmate at the club when I got there and more turned up later (I was missing a Lake Sebago and Hudson River weekend that had been planned long after I'd committed to Women Swimmin') so I had help, and then of course I wasn't worried about the Ithaca end 'cause there's always plenty of help for loading after the event.  

3. Silly thing I liked about the car: If you add an 'okina (represented by a ' and pronounced as a glottal stop) between the e's you have the Hawaiian word for octopus, so I decided that ka he'e was the car's name for the weekend. I hope Trusty Romany wasn't too jealous, that boat and I have been an item for well over a decade now and it still doesn't have a name.

A couple more mildly entertaining notes about the car:

I was telling the friends I was sitting with at the free concert by the lake on Saturday night about my concern when I first saw it, and I mentioned it was a Kia Soul, and one of them said "Oh yeah, that's the one that looks like a freezer on wheels, right?" and I cracked up. Yep, that's the one.

And then this week I'd posted a picture of the car with the boat on top in the Delaware Water Gap, and one of my friends said it looked like a good yak wagon, lots of cargo space, and I said, "Not as much as you might think, I had crap all over the back seat" and she said, "You put the back seats DOWN". HA! I am SO not a driver, the thought hadn't even occurred to me. Next time then!

4. Another thing that made it the perfect summer weekend: First sweet corn and caprese salad dinner of the summer. What with one thing and another, I hadn't made it to a greenmarket since long before the corn would've started appearing, but I got into Ithaca early enough to go drop off my boat, and as I was headed to the Ithaca yacht club I passed the GreenStar, my friend Louise's favorite local organic grocery. A ha! I didn't have time to stop then as I needed to lose the boat and be back for a 6:00 meeting, but the store was still open afterwards and YES! they had local sweet corn and tomatoes. The tomatoes were gorgeous, I picked a great big lumpy green and red one that turned out to be soooo sweet and flavorsome; the corn was pretty picked over and the ears that were left were rather measly little specimens, but they turned out to be sweet and tender and much more delicious than I'd expected. Louise had the requisite butter and oil and vinegar around and my only regret was that I hadn't thought to grab some basil from my garden (which isn't having the best year, but the basil is the exception). Delicious even without the fresh basil, though.

5. Taughannock Falls. This is the waterfall I stopped to grab some pictures of when the clouds seemed to be rolling in and I'd thrown in the towel on the thought of going swimming in favor of going napping. The overlook is right on the way back to Louise's place so a stop was quick and convenient. Also had a nice time checking out a fossils-of-Ithaca table that a young lady with the parks department was overseeing - fossil collecting had been a hobby of hers for a while and she was quite happy to have gotten a summer job sharing it. Good stop! There are a couple of really nice hikes here too but at this point I was very focused on naptime. 

6. Valley View Farm Stand: I always stop here on the way home for summer staples -- tomatoes and peaches and corn, oh my. Plus some honey or jam or whatever else looks appealing for a more long-lasting treat. It's always further from Ithaca than I think it is and I'll always be getting nervous at some point thinking that somehow I missed it, but I never have. One of these years I'll start to trust myself more. 

7. Nice old barn near the town of Whitney Point. It catches my eye every time I'm driving out to Ithaca. This year I started back to Brooklyn earlier than in the past, Louise and I have generally done something fun on Sunday morning on past trips but the drive to Ithaca goes through some really lovely countryside and being on my own this time, I thought it would be great to start back earlier and do a little sightseeing on my way home. This was my second stop, it's a neat-looking old barn but appears long abandoned, and looks like it doesn't need more than a few more good storms before it goes down. I haven't gone past it once without thinking "I gotta take a picture of that before it goes" and this was the perfect chance to do that.

8. Roadside bar-b-q: I'd noticed this on the way to Ithaca, it looked so promising with all the big smokers out in front, so when I passed it on the way home I stopped to grab some bbq for lunch. I got their smoked brisket, it didn't come with sauce, I didn't ask for sauce, it didn't need sauce. Delicious. Although the scenery in which I ate it may have helped...

9. Delaware Water Gap: This was my last stop on the way home. The Delaware Water Gap is always the one particular part of the drive where I'm wishing I could just stop and visit for a while, it's so pretty. At one point I'd been sniffing around on the internet looking for paddling possibilities, found plenty but decided that might be overly ambitious and decided to settle for maybe a hike instead; unfortunately there was construction-caused traffic before this so by the time I got here I didn't have the time for poking around that I'd hoped to. I have to admit that this is where the smartphone I don't have might have come in handy, or at least a little more pre-trip research - as it was I followed road signs and ended up at the PA visitor center in East Stroudsburg, which wasn't on the river at all; I looked at a big map they had there that showed a loop trail by the river, decided to go find that, drove to where I thought it was to find sort of an industrial parking area, drove around the town a little more (attractive little town), saw a couple of outfitters where I could've made inquiries if it had been a little earlier (noted for another time). 

I finally threw in the towel on this particular search for a chance to spend at least a little time by the river and got back on the highway - too bad I hadn't done that to begin with because very soon after the town, the road met up with the river and there was an off-ramp to the Kittatiny Point Visitor's Center, which was exactly the sort of right-on-the-river visitor center in a park with picnic tables and people playing in the river that I'd been hoping to find in the first place. Didn't have time to hike at this point but I did decide that since I'd found it, I would take an early dinner break here - brisket, a peach, and the last of the fresh mozzarella, as the paddlers went drifting by and the late afternoon sun sparkled on the water. Wish I'd had more time but at least I got that much, which was very pleasant and I do have a better sense of things for another time. Beautiful area, with the highway so close there's street noise that means it's not quite as bucolic as the pictures might seem, but it does make a great weekend destination for city folks. Glad to get a little visit there. 

And that was pretty much it for summertastic weekend one - the rest of the drive home was uneventful and I was home at a semi-decent hour.

Hoping for another fun weekend this weekend, closer to home this time!